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How ignition interlock devices prevent but also cause crashes

A total of 34 states, including Kentucky, have some sort of law regarding the use of ignition interlock devices among DUI offenders. IIDs are breath tests that connect to a car's ignition and require drivers to blow alcohol-free breath before starting their car. While the car is in motion, it requires "rolling retests" to ensure that a driver is not drinking behind the wheel.

The number of IIDs installed on vehicles has grown from 133,000 to 350,000 over the past decade. The devices have reduced repeat offenses for driving while intoxicated by some 70% according to the CDC, and those states with an IID requirement experience 15% fewer alcohol-related crash deaths than states without one. However, IIDs have been involved in dozens of crashes as many drivers claim that they were distracted by the devices.

The problem is linked with the rolling retest. Companies that sell IIDs say that the devices give plenty of time for drivers to take the test and that a driver does not need to look at the device to take the test. Drivers can take it while on the road or after safely pulling over. If drivers do not take the test, the IID can flash the lights, honk the horn or set off some other alert, which does not interfere with vehicle operation.

Despite this concern, drivers who cause car accidents while being distracted by IIDs might be reasonably held accountable for their conduct. There is nothing definite on IIDs being somehow inherently unsafe. Victims of a crash, then, may file their claim against the driver's auto insurance company rather than implicate the makers of the IID. They may want a lawyer by their side because the other side might bring up the IID as part of its defense. A victim's lawyer may handle all negotiations on their behalf.

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